Costs associated with immigration cases are poised to increase by up to 500% as the government considers recouping the entire cost of proceedings from the applicant. 

The proposal is subject to a consultation, set to run until 3rd June. If passed, the enhanced fees are projected to raise the government an extra £37m a year.

Under the proposal, fees in the first-tier tribunal would rise from £80 to £490 for an application to have a decision made on papers filed, and from £140 to £800 for an application for an oral hearing.

The MoJ has also proposed a new £455 fee for an application to the first-tier tribunal for permission to appeal to the upper tribunal.

In the upper tribunal, the new proposals would see an application for permission to appeal, where permission had been refused by the first-tier tribunal, cost £350, while a £510 fee will be imposed for an appeal hearing where permission is granted.

The enhanced costs will mean that an individual applicant could easily see their outlay on court costs alone spiral above £2,000 - before solicitor's fees are even taken into account!

Commenting on the matter, justice minister Dominic Raab said it was no longer fair that the taxpayer be expected to fund three-quarters of the cost of immigration and asylum proceedings.

He added: 'In light of the challenging financial circumstances we face we have already had to take difficult decisions. We have implemented enhanced court fees, above the cost of the proceedings to which they relate, for money claims; possession claims; general applications within civil proceedings; and divorce petitions.

‘In these financial circumstances, we have concluded that it is no longer reasonable to expect the taxpayer to fund around 75% of the costs of immigration and asylum proceedings.’

There are plans for those in 'particularly vulnerable positions' to remain exempt from paying the fees. These include those who qualify for legal aid or asylum support, those appealing against a decision to deprive them of their citizenship, and children who are bringing appeals to the tribunal who are supported by a legal authority.

Exemptions are also expected to be extended to children housed by local authorities and parents of children receiving local authority support. Further extensions may yet be considered, if raised before the end of the consultation process.

Understandably, the proposal has been met by a certain amount of concern. Law Society president Jonathan Smithers said: ‘It is fundamental to the rule of law that access to the courts and tribunals should not be determined by the ability to pay - the provision of justice should not be an accounting exercise.

‘There is a serious risk that fee increases of 500% will prevent many people from challenging often incorrect Home Office administrative decisions about their entitlement to enter or remain in the UK.’

Using the similar scenario of employment tribunal fees sharply increasing back in July 2013 as an example, a strong argument can be made that the introduction of these fees will simply act to discourage many people from challenging decisions that are often found to have been incorrectly made by the Home Office. 

Since June 2013, the number of employment tribunal cases has recorded a drop of nearly 70%.